Joe and Carmen Rodriguez had just returned home from Christmas Eve church services when they spotted some animals on their front lawn.
They weren't reindeer, but it still was unusual sight -- a tiny terrier and a very pregnant Labrador-mix.
"I'd seen the same two dogs at the school (Rowena Chess Elementary) where I worked a couple weeks ago just wandering around the playground like they were lost, so when they turned up in our yard I knew they had been either lost or abandoned," said the Pasco woman. "As we got out of the car, both of the dogs jumped into the car and laid down."
Taking in the pregnant pooch and her faithful companion who acts like a knight protecting his queen was a dilemma for the financially strapped family.
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But the Rodriguezes didn't have the heart to shoo them away, especially on Christmas Eve.
"I am so angry that someone could abandon these two lovable dogs who really care for each other," Joe Rodriguez said. "He is constantly keeping the momma clean and stays right by her side at all times."
So "Momma" and her little furry friend were kept in from the cold and spent Christmas with the family, which included the Rodriguezes' daughter, granddaughter and two Chihuahuas.
But the family doesn't have the room or the money to keep two dogs, let alone the impending birth of a brood of pups.
"I knew I would have to eventually take both dogs to the animal shelter here in Pasco because I just don't have the room to keep them both," Carmen Rodriguez said. But they worried the Lab and terrier would no longer be together.
So volunteers with Pet Over Population Prevention stepped in to help.
"We don't have any foster pet homes to place this soon-to-be mom and her little friend with right now," POPP founder Molli Van Dorn told the Herald on Wednesday. "So I told Carmen that POPP would provide food and all medical attention the two might need if she would hang on to them a while longer until homes could be found for them."
And though they haven't taken the pair to a veterinarian yet, they suspect the puppies, maybe as many as six of them, could come at anytime since Momma is actively looking for a place to "nest."
"I'm just amazed Momma hasn't given birth yet," Carmen said. "I cleaned out one of our closets and fixed it up for birthing. I just hope she has an easy time."
POPP will continue to help the family with food and medical needs until permanent homes can be found.
"We'll deal with it best we can," Joe said.
In the meantime, POPP encourages anyone in the community interested in pet foster care to visit the organization's web site at www.popptricities.org for more information or leave a message at 943-4722.
"We are in need of more foster homes for our pets," Van Dorn said. "We're here to help our furry friends in trouble but we can't do it without foster homes until permanent homes can be found."